London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1901. Second edition, Colonial Library issue, second and final printing, wraps binding. Paperback. This humble, battered, paperback is an extravagantly rare “wraps” (paperback) Colonial issue of Winston Churchill’s first book and “the scarcest of all of the Malakand editions, issues, or printings.”
Cased (hardcover) colonial issues were produced in small numbers simultaneously with the Home Issue. Harsher climates and conditions in the colonies meant low survival rates - and often poor condition for the few survivors. Lesser known is that the publisher also produced a paperback colonial issue. These fared far worse than their hardcover counterparts. Wraps colonial issues were bound in thin, pale blue-green covers printed in dark blue, with an elaborately bordered front cover designating it as the “Longmans’ Colonial Library” issue and printed at the bottom “This Edition is intended for circulation only in India and the British Colonies”.
There were no fewer than 10 different editions, printings, and binding variations for the very small number of Colonial issues ultimately produced from 1898 to 1901. This copy is not only the last, but the rarest. In 1899, a second edition (The “Silver Library” edition) followed the first edition of 1898, driven in part by Churchill’s vexation at the myriad errors in the first edition. This second edition saw a second and final printing in 1901, some of the sheets for which were transferred to the Colonial Library. “In the end, only 80 of each of the wrappers and cloth copies were sold, making this printing the scarcest of all of the Malakand editions, issues, or printings.” (Cohen A1.4.b, Vol. I, p.24) We know of only two surviving copies in the hardcover Colonial Library binding. This is the only surviving copy of which we are aware in the wraps Colonial Library binding.
Potential singularity commends this copy, not condition. While both the front and rear covers of this copy are detached, wrinkled, and soiled, both covers are nearly complete, with nearly all of the original print still legible. Although the spine is heavily chipped, more than two-thirds of it remains intact, with much of the title, part of the author’s name, and part of the publisher’s name still legible. The contents are respectable, particularly given their colonial provenance and fragile binding. Like the front cover, the first few leaves, spanning the front free endpaper through the frontispiece, are detached. Nonetheless, the frontispiece tissue guard remains intact and the contents are only mildly age-toned with no apparent spotting. The sole losses noted are just a few characters along the upper left edge of the text of the final page (p.337), some chipping to the blank fore edge margins of the same page, and some loss and tears to the blank final free endpaper.
The Story of the Malakand Field Force recounts Churchill’s experiences while attached to Sir Bindon Blood's 1897 punitive expedition on the Northwest Frontier of India. This book was written and published while Churchill was a young cavalry officer still serving in India. He had successfully applied his pen as a war correspondent, but this was his first book-length work. His motivation was a combination of pique and ambition. Vexed that his Daily Telegraph columns were to be published unsigned, on 25 October 1897 Churchill wrote to his mother: "...I had written them with the design... of bringing my personality before the electorate." Two weeks later, his resolve to write a book firming, Churchill again wrote to his mother: "...It is a great undertaking but if carried out will yield substantial results in every way, financially, politically, and even, though do I care a damn, militarily." Having invested his ambition in his first book, he clearly labored over it: "I have discovered a great power of application which I did not think I possessed. For two months I have worked not less than five hours a day." The finished manuscript was sent to his mother on the last day of 1897 and published on 14 March of 1898.
Reference: Cohen A1.4.b, Woods/ICS A1(bb.2). Item #006412